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I want to separate from my husband but don't know how

Community Member

I've been married for 20yrs and we have 2 healthy children. We are financially stable. I know I should be happy but I feel depressed and stuck. I no longer want to be married.

I care deeply about my husband, and he is a good man, but he has always been totally closed off to his emotions. Since the beginning I felt rejected and alone when he wouldn't talk to me. After we had our first child I asked him to come to marriage counselling, but he refused. Then I asked him to read a book I’d found helpful, but he was offended that I was 'picking on him' and very angry about it. He said hurtful things I’ve never been able to forget. I think it was then I started to shut him out the way I had always felt shut out by him. That was 8 years ago.

He finally agreed to counselling about 2yrs ago but I feel like it's only scratched the surface. I've asked him to do extra reading or even his own therapy but he refuses. I’ve tried to initiate some fun activities for us but we don’t enjoy the same things and neither of us end up having a good time.

Intimacy is also a problem. For years I was having sex in order to keep the peace and now I just feel used up, like I’m not even capable of enjoying it anymore. The idea of having sex with him makes me so anxious I feel physically ill. It’s been months since I’ve tried and I don't want to again. I've read about sexless marriage, but I know my husband wouldn't handle that. Sex is very important to him. but the real problem isn't the sex it's the lack of connection. I don't know how to feel connected to him anymore. I don't think I want to.

I dream of asking him for a separation, but how? I only work part time, and I don’t want to move the kids even if I could afford to. And it seems too cruel to ask my husband to move out. Should I stay until the kids are adults and waste another 10yrs of both of our lives? The alternative is to break my husband's heart and break up my family. But staying is just adding more layers to my resentment and I'm scared I'll end up hating him.

Has anyone been through anything like this? I’m still seeing my own counsellor, but I think it's gotten to the point where more talking about the same issues won't help. I need to take some action, because I can't stay in limbo. I'm not living just existing.

Thank you

126 Replies 126

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hello GoodWitch,

Once upon a time, ten years ago, I was where you are now. I cannot advise you whether to stay or to depart, that is your decision. I can, however, regale you on what happened for me.

For the sake of my children, and their happiness, I chose to stay. I did everything I could think of to try and make the marriage work, but in hindsight I was only delaying the inevitable. She refused to open up, to share any of her inner feelings. She used to say, "If you haven't worked it out by now, then you haven't been paying attention."  How was I to know anything if she never gave any indication if anything I did was or wasn't to her liking? Also, how come she never tried to connect to my feelings?

Anyhow, some six years down the road, we split up. But the most interesting thing is that my kids had been waiting for us to do just that. And, that they are now 'happy' that she is gone. (At one time, after we split up, there was a possibility that we might get back together, and the kids were horrified of that.)

My advice to you is to write a list of all the reasons why you would stay and all the reasons why you would leave. And, only stay, so long as the reasons to stay outweigh the reasons to leave.

You may also want to start squirreling away some savings in an account that he's unaware of. (no letters home, use your parents/siblings/cousins address for bank mail). Hint: only ever bank spare "cash", as then there is no chance of a transfer being asked about. If everything works out, 5-10 years down the road, you will have the money for a big family holiday. If not, then you have what you need to help you re-start your life.

I don't like recommending people have secrets in marriages, but in this instance I think it will behoove you to keep this one.

Best wishes

Thank you everyone for your kind advice and support. It helped a lot to be able to post my story here warts and all and be accepted.

I have an update. It is thanks to my post here that I found the strength to write all this out for my husband in a letter. I realised that whenever we try to talk face to face his first reaction is defensiveness, then blame and heightened emotion from both of us and it all disintegrates. So I thought writing it was my only option. I left the letter for him and went away for 2 days so he could absorb it. I knew that the only response I could live with would be 'I see that you are right and I apologise. I want to make it up to you', but I figured I was reaching for the stars and I had better start looking for a place to rent.

To my utter shock his response was positive and heartfelt. He admits he has done many things wrong and actually started to talking to me about his feelings! you have no idea, this man does not talk about feelings, ever. So. I'm in shock, in a good way, although I am still very tentative about it. But we have had a couple of good long chats since the weekend and I haven't felt like a drink at all. Perhaps the truth has set me free.

It is very early days and I don't know yet where this will lead. It is still possible it is too late to repair our romantic love as I don't feel anything in that department yet, but if all that happens is we can finally have some honesty between us and friendship it will have been worth the effort and anxiety I suffered thinking he was going to yell at me for what I said.

*SB I have written pro/con lists before and they always end up even! Also had small nest egg growing 'just in case' for a while and I won't be letting that go yet. I will see where this new development takes us first.

Empty Inside, I'm sorry you are going through similar things. I hope you find a way to cope or get through. Your offer to help means a lot to me, and I offer the same to you. The hardest thing I've found is the guilt for feeling like you don't appreciate what you have, when others have things worse. Being married to a good man who for whatever reason you can't seem to find a connection with, that sometimes vague feeling that something is missing, doesn't seem like a big enough problem to complain about. You do feel ungrateful. It took me a long time to convince myself my feelings were valid and I deserved the emotional support I needed. Otherwise, what is the point of being married in this day and age? It's not like as women we can't look after ourselves if we choose, and have the tools. There are ways to get by on your own even if you are in the habit of sharing some tasks etc with someone else (after 20-30yrs there is definitely some habit involved in staying with someone you no longer feel in love with). If your husband is not a best friend and or good life partner, what, honestly, is marriage for?

All very philosophical questions I guess and all things I've wrestled with. Anytime you need to chat, I'm here

Thanks so much GoodWitch - the guilt and fear are very difficult. Also there are financial issues - pragmatically speaking we would both end up worse off financially if my husband and I split up. I agree with you that its much more possible, however, for women to be independent and have a lot more choices than they used to. Most of me wants to make the most of my older years - I've been looking forward to a relaxing time for all my working life - just not quite working out that way just yet :).

I hope you sort out your own relationship and can figure out exactly what you want and find the strength to implement it. Its so hard to know exactly what is right in some situations but someone told me once that when your heart, gut (instincts) and brain and in alignment - a choice becomes clear.

Community Member

Hello GoodWitch,

I have just read all your chats & it seems that you have been given so much good advice. I am a 56yr old man who has been married for 30 yrs. I didn't realise that my wife thought our marriage was iver years ago until I was shocked by her decision to end it 15 months ago. I am still so badly affected that I am in a state of severe depression & cant cope with life.

This would not be the case with your husband but what I want to tell you is the letter you wrote is a great positive step in communication. 2 days to be alone was an ideal way for him to process your feelings without any possible knee jerk retaliation.

If my wife could have only given me the valuable gift of communication I think our marriage would have survived. Men often dont realise how a wife is struggling but what you did has given him a lot to realise that he didn't before.

We often didn't speak for periods and this really etoded our relationship. The catalyst for her telling me was the loss of our beloved son & my subsequent nervous breakdown.

I sincerely hope that with your effort to communicate (which women often do better than men) your husband may appreciate you better & with gradual improvement you can also rekindle the relationship that you once had.

I hope that your marriage works out as much as I regret mine is seemingly over. I still love her dearly & cant forget what a wonderful wife & mum she was.

You both deserve to be happy, I personally still hope that it may be together.

Kind regards, Sarzy61

Community Member

hi goodwitch

i am in a similar position i have been married 21yrs have a 19 yr old son and 17yr old daughter who will be doing her HSC . i no longer want to be with my husband but don’t feel i can say anything until my daughter has completed year 12. At the moment he thinks i am depressed ! which although i have had depression before this is not the case now i just am not happy. Sex has been a bit of a chore and i am now trying to avoid any contact. Sex is and has been very important to him i switched off long ago .He keeps talking about our future once daughter has finished school .I feel really bad about not telling him so will be seeing a psychologist to try and sort out what to do and how to end this relationship . i have definetely moved on and just know i don’t want another 20 yrs of not really being me! He is quite negative and awkward in social outings which i am just over. Life is not a dress rehearsal . cheers

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Porridge, and a warm welcome to you.

I understand your problem and feel sorry for you, but living in a marriage where you haven't been happy for a number of years means you aren't looking after yourself as well as your daughter because what will happen is she will notice changes to how you speak and realise something isn't right so this may affect her studies.

She may not want to say anything to you, but I'm sure she will be aware of the situation but even so, but maybe it could still be influencing her and have to decide what's doing more harm than good.

Tell your husband you're seeing a psychologist because it's not healthy in the long run to keep pretending especially to your daughter and maybe suggest to him that you want some time alone after HSC finishes.

I am pleased you're seeing a psychologist as there are pro's and con's in what you do for the next 3 -4 months, and would certainly like to know.

My marriage ended after 25 years, but for the last couple of years it wasn't easy.



I'm sorry to hear about your separation, and even more sad to hear you have lost a son. I can't imagine how awful that's been for both you and your wife. I don't think it's uncommon for a relationship to fall apart after such tragedy, which I'm sure makes it no easier for you, but well, I'm sure you're not alone.

Do you have a counsellor you talk to about this? I'm assuming so. I hope it's helping. Maybe there is a grief group you could attend too?

Hope you are taking care of yourself


Hi Porridge,

Sorry to hear you are going through similar things. I'm beginning to realise just how common it is.

For a long time I also told my husband I was depressed--which I was, but I was feeling down because of our marriage and I let him believe it was hormonal, or about my job and not him. It was just too terrifying to tell the truth. But telling the truth has relieved a lot of my depressive symptoms, even if it hasn't solved our problems. We are still trying to work on those. It's possible despite how scary it is you will feel better if you are able to be honest with your husband. I guess that does depend on how he reacts though. I recently had to admit to my husband's face, when pushed, that I didn't have any romantic feelings toward him and I think of him only as a co-parent and friend. He cried over this and I know he's heartbroken. It was awful, but again I feel better for having said it. He even admitted it was better to know the truth. I couldn't go on lying to avoid an emotional scene.

Right now my husband is saying he is willing to wait for my feelings to return and that he believes they will. I'm not sure I share his optimism, but it is nice that he is being patient. It's nice to know he does love me. I'm trying to look at the positive things instead of focusing on what's missing. Who knows? maybe he's right and I will feel in love with him again one day. I don't know. I miss being in love with him and I miss the time when I did enjoy sex. It's like a big part of myself has fallen away and I'm grieving it.

And OMG my hubs is socially awkward as well and it is frustrating! Sometimes I think 'just once can't we just go to a party without you moaning about it and not getting on with someone'. So there's that too. I feel your pain Porridge!

Did you contact a psychologist? Keep me posted


Community Member

Hi GoodWitch

I was in a very similar situation to you there was a lack of communication between myself and my ex. One day his ex girlfriend from high school turned up at his Mum's house out of the blue (apparently) and they went out a week or so later for a coffee, 2 weeks after that she called him in tears saying her husband had left her. Long story short within 2 months my ex had left me and started dating her 3.5 years later they are now unhappily married (according to our kids) so looks like the karma bus arrived and I'm happier than I've ever been and am loving dating in my 40's lol!

Like you I avoided issues to keep things calm at home.

The biggest problem I see with staying until the kids get older is that it only gets harder on everyone especially the kids you say it's only 10 years but what if you manage 3 or 4 then you just can't take it anymore. My kids were 15 and 11 (almost 12) when my ex left me. At the time my 15 year old took it very hard but long term my 11 year old is taking it harder the amount of change in her life in the last few years makes my head spin. She had changed schools 6 months earlier half way through grade 5 as she wasn't happy at school we split she met dads new girlfriend within 13 months she was starting high school and in a period of 3 years between myself and my ex there has been 7 house moves all this on top of puberty. She has withdrawn socially and I am very concerned about her mental health.

I'm not sure how old your kids are but they adjust much quicker to changes than you realise the younger they are.

There is heaps of help out there I'd start by talking to a lawyer (try legal aid) for legal advise on the how to and what things you need to put in place and what you can do to split your assests. Centrelink (go in if you can) and finding what financial payments you'd be entitled to and also Child Support if you're only working part time and you have even 50/50 care he'd be required to pay (I assume he works full time), if your youngest child is under 7 (could be 😎 you can get the sole parents pension to supplement your income if not they'll put you on newstart and you will need to look for work if you're not already working at least 15 hours a week (include time you volunteer at school if you do in your total hours).

The most import thing you can do is get some counselling for yourself and if you decide to separate for your kids as well.